As the flagship model of the Outback lineup, the 2005 Subaru Outback 3.0 boasts the most powerful engine: a 250-horsepower, 3.0-liter flat six-cylinder that produces 250 pound-feet of torque. It's coupled to a five-speed automatic, which includes a manual mode dubbed Shiftronic by Subaru. The engine is a good fit for this car, operating very smoothly while easily bringing it to freeway speeds or up steep inclines. That said, the transmission is a bit shifty, as it seems to have trouble finding exactly the right gear when climbing hills.
We already mentioned the Momo wheel, but the sport mode on the transmission is further evidence that the Outback wants to play race car. However, it isn't suited for it. Take it hard on a twisty mountain road, and the suspension reveals that it would rather be smoothing the ride over rough gravel tracks or speed bumps than holding the road. Plus, the transmission's sport mode doesn't feel terribly different from the drive mode, and as we've found on a few other newer automatics, it hesitates a bit when you mash the accelerator down.
The manual mode on the transmission is better used for selecting just the right gear for old logging roads leading deep into wilderness--the kind of place the 2005 Subaru Outback 3.0 was really meant to go. Its all-wheel drive is complemented by a torque-distribution system that dynamically moves power fore or aft from its default 50-50 split, all the way up to 100 percent in either direction. VDC stands for vehicle dynamic control, which contributes to keeping the Outback upright, and its 8.7 inches of clearance are adequate for light off-road driving.
Mileage on the Outback isn't stellar, with an EPA rating of 19mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway. During our testing, which included mostly freeway and highway miles, we averaged 18.1mpg according to the trip computer, something that might make environmentalists pause.